Traffic safety improvement grants aim to save lives

Three local projects, including one along Fourth Plain, receive federal funding

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 
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The Washington State Department of Transportation has approved three local traffic safety improvement grants, aimed at reducing traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

The local grants are just three of 54 projects throughout the state that snagged a piece of the $25 million set aside by the Federal Highway Administration. Construction has to start by July and be finished by the end of the year, making these projects quick solutions to troublesome roadways, intersections and corridors.

In order to get the grant, the projects have to contribute to the state's Target Zero goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030.

• Crosswalk upgrades along Fourth Plain Boulevard

Vancouver received a $360,450 grant to upgrade five crosswalks along a one-mile stretch of Fourth Plain Boulevard. Red lights will be added to the pedestrian signals at T Street, Z Street, Fairmount Avenue, Neals Lane and Rossiter Lane. The signal remains dark until someone wants to cross the street. When the pedestrian pushes the signal, the lights flash yellow and then turn red, signaling cars to stop in both directions. Then, it gives the "WALK" signal to the pedestrian.

"Obviously, a full signal calls for more compliance from drivers," said city traffic engineer Ali Eghtedari. "Some drivers, when they see yellow flashing lights, they don't take it seriously, unfortunately."

This type of hybrid beacon signal is also located nearby on Fort Vancouver Way, connecting Clark College with its parking lots across the street.

A woman was killed on May 3, 2012, in a hit-and-run crash in the crosswalk at Neals Lane and Fourth Plain. She was thrown 125 feet from the crosswalk to the front of Becerra's Plaza and died from her injuries before paramedics arrived.

Her death spurred concern over the crosswalks in the area. Neighbors said the flashing yellow lights were ineffective and red lights should replace them.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, hybrid beacon signs can reduce crashes involving pedestrians by up to 69 percent and total roadway crashes by up to 29 percent.

Drivers obey red lights more than yellow, Eghtedari said.

Compliance at crosswalks can be tricky, and there just isn't the opportunity to put patrol officers at every corner, enforcing the law.

A couple more hybrid beacon signals, funded through a separate grant, are being designed for installation along Mill Plain Boulevard. One will be near the scene of a fatal crash in December 2011 just west of Andresen Road.

• Stoplights at Southeast 136th Avenue and Southeast Seventh Street

The city will replace stop signs with traffic lights at Southeast 136th Avenue and Southeast Seventh Street in east Vancouver.

The intersection is near the site of a fatal motorcycle accident that happened July 9. A Vancouver man riding a Kawasaki Ninja north on Southeast 136th collided with a Buick SUV mid-block between Seventh Street and Mill Plain Boulevard. He died at the scene. The incident renewed community concern over the busy area.

The intersection has been on the city's radar for some time as needing a signal upgrade. Area developers contributed funds intended to help install stop lights. With the $250,000 grant, the project can be completed.

Both 136th Avenue and Mill Plain Boulevard are high traffic areas, and the intersection is just blocks away from Wy'east Middle School.

In 2009, a 13-year-old Wy'east student was hit by an SUV at Seventh Street while riding his bike and was dragged along the street for about 130 feet. Following the accident, the once athletic teen couldn't move or eat on his own.

These trouble areas are upgraded as the funding becomes available, Eghtedari said.

• Replacement of 90-year-old guardrail

The county will remove 90-year-old concrete guardrail posts along rural roads in north Clark County and install railing that meets the latest standards.

Construction for the $988,000 project starts in late September at 22 areas along Pacific Highway and Northeast Hayes and Cedar Creek Roads, where there are steep slopes adjacent to the roadways.

In December 2010, a 39-year-old La Center woman was killed when she crashed her car over an embankment and into a tree, near Northeast 12th Avenue along Hayes Road in Woodland.

Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops;patty.hastings@columbian.com.